Recently, SONA has had the pleasure of working with kitchen designer, KBSA Kitchen Designer of the Year, Diane Berry. Nicola Fulstow spoke to Diane about her dislike of cooking, selling a kitchen to her own father, and her passion for optimal organisation in the home.
A Place for Everything and Everything in its’ Place. An Interview with Kitchen Designer Diane Berry
December 14, 2021
Where does your love of kitchens come from?
I have loved designing peoples homes from the very start of my career in 1980, I find the kitchen one of the most challenging spaces and the devil is in the detail.
In honesty, I love getting to know my clients needs! It’s fascinating! Whether it’s a couple with no children who like a tidy home or a huge family with loads of children and hobbies happening all over the place. I just love working it out. Finding a place for everything and tying to make it instinctive, so everyone simply put things back where they belong as it is obvious.
How did this love of organisation and planning originate?
This could come from my father as he had to have a tidy home and with six daughters and a son it was like a mission to have a place for everything and everything in its place. I do also think I am quite nosey, as I never stop learning or being curious about people and what makes them tick and be happy. The feeling I get when a client says their kitchen is so easy to look after and keep tidy is immense. Even better than the kitchen looking great; as this is when it truly works. Perfection is to achieve both – that’s what drives me day in day out.
It is, and has been the most satisfying career and forty years on I am still here, listening to clients and absorbing information to work hard to get it perfect for them.
Do you personally like to cook?
I guess the funny thing is I don’t love to cook! I love to clean and keep a tidy organised home, but truly cooking isn’t for me. It’s a lot of work and then people just eat it! As a creative I like to be able to see what I make for longer than a dinner or a cake takes to eat… I can cook, but do I like it, not really, I prefer to bake.
So as a perfectionist in your craft, what, in your opinion, spells out the ultimate luxury in a kitchen?
Quality of design and products. You can have a great design but with poor quality products it is ruined. Just as bad design with great products fails too! So, the goal is great design and working with the best quality products your budget can stretch to. It is always best to spend more, as all too often if you try to cut corners something will need replacing and you end up spending more in the long term.
Remember quality materials that you don’t tire of are the best. I always say don’t go for anything too “out there” that might have you saying “what was I thinking using that colour?” in a year’s time.
Where do you go or what do you do, when you need inspiration?
I visit amazing exhibitions in Europe to find inspiration. However hotels are also an amazing source of inspiration. Many years ago I visited Vegas and there was a light bulb moment. I realised it was a great way to see huge areas of amazing tiling, fabrics, colour and art all come together. It was a place that made my eyes pop and has had me visiting many luxury hotels since, to see what the interiors designers are using to make spaces come alive.
What’s been the most challenging kitchen you’ve worked on, and why?
The most challenging kitchen I have designed was for my father as he originally trained me. Many years later he asked me to do his kitchen and then proceeded to tell me how to design it! So I went away, designed it his way and presented him with that design. My Father said “great just what I wanted”. I then proceeded to show him how I would have designed it for a client. He absolutely loved it and bought it my way! I never ever thought he would accept anything other than his way, and it was a brave day when I said to the man who trained me that I could do it better. Luckily, he loved it and had many years of joy from the room.
How do you approach lighting in a kitchen?
I do all my own lighting design as there is nothing worse than electricians making domino patterns on a ceiling without any thought as to where the lights shines. I work on mood and task lighting, creating variable settings for different times of the day.
To really talk about lighting I would need a whole day. This can make or break a room and I always hope clients hold back some budget for nice fittings.
We couldn’t agree more when it comes to lighting! The colour temperature as well as the brightness – the scenes for throughout the day as you say, for mood or functionality are so important. It’s probably the area that we find many clients don’t expect to spend on, but when they see the difference between good and bad lighting, are happy to allocate a budget.
What are your top 3 life changing kitchen appliances?
I guess you are asking about current modern day appliances. As this would have been Washer, Dryer and Dishwasher in years gone by and now a days it would have to be Quooker (boiling hot water tap), induction venting hobs and Nespresso machines. iPads and strong WiFi seem to spring to mind too as they are great for recipes and help on any subject.
What colours and finishes do you see being popular in 2022?
The coming year is the year we see more and more textures being used; and an interest in mixing natural materials to increase the homely feel of the room. Dark kitchens are here to stay also.
We found that The Pandemic, and more people being at home made people look at their homes in a different light. Do you think the pandemic has altered how people feel about their homes, and has this affected kitchen design?
The Pandemic has been amazing for home design as everyone appreciates the design of their home and garden more. We have never been so busy! What is nice is our clients are so much more engaging in the detail now. They know what they missed out in lockdown and are striving to get all they need in life, from their home. They want to make their homes a real luxury space for all the family.
What is your dream kitchen? Or do you already have it?
I do have a beautiful kitchen, but it is 19 years old and although in great condition I would love to change it to an Eggersmann steel kitchen – which has to be the most amazing kitchen I have ever seen.
What’s the first question you ask a client, who comes to you for a kitchen design?
Who cooks? Followed by How tall are you? The detail I need is endless but really who cooks is the most important question!
Where should people start when they feel overwhelmed at the process of choosing the perfect kitchen?
Go to a local independent retailer where you see the same faces every time you walk in. Trust me that the huge sheds are only interested in giving you what you ask for and making a sale! Independents are and will be engaging and want to help you get the best design and content for your budget. They don’t bite honestly, even when the studios look intimidating – just walk in.
We need you! Our livelihood relies on lovely people walking through the door, so all we will want to do is chat and make you a drink. You can then see it as an interview and you are then in the driving seat. If someone is too pushy or not your kind of person just say thank you and walk away. We do what we do because we love it and want the very best for you. I really want to say to everyone just come to me and I will look after you but sadly I have to share you all with other kitchen studios :0)